The History of Online Education


Share this infographic on your site!

Past, Present and Future: A History of Online Education

The evolution of technology and of new learning experiences have always been closely related. As distance learning specialists affirm, the field of distance-learning had three main generations:

• Correspondence study
• Multimedia
• Computer-mediated

A brief timeline

On March 20, 1728, the Boston Gazette ran an advertisement offering long distance instruction. And so teaching outside the classroom had its beginning.
1728: Boston teacher offers instruction through weekly letters to anyone in the country
1892: U. of Chicago is first educational institution to offer correspondence courses
1922: Penn State broadcasts courses over the radio
1953: U. of Houston offers course work on TV
1968: Stanford University creates the Stanford Instructional Television Network
1959: Plato is born, the first internet community. Hatched by two U. of Illinois profs.
1968: U. of Alberta (Canada) Dept. of Medicine offers online courses
1984: The Electronic University Network, offers online courses using proprietary software for DOS and Commodore 64 computers
1989: Phoenix rising. The University of Phoenix starts its online program
1996: Duke University begins its Global Executive M.B.A. program which combines online technology and sessions on-campus and at various locations throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America
1999: Jones University becomes first accredited fully web based university; Learning portals, including HungryMinds, Click2Learn, Learn2, eCollege, Blackboard, and others emerge on the landscape
2000: launches with dozens of classes at the University of Texas. The service provides professor web sites, including online course documents, calendars, grades, quizzes and surveys
Jan. 1, 2008: The term MOOC is coined by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island
2012: The rise of MOOCs, Coursera, Udacity, edX launch
2013: The Open University builds its own MOOC platform, Futurelearn, with universities from the UK. More MOOCs: Open2Study in Australia and iversity in Germany.

Latest enrollment figures:

Students enrolled exclusively in online colleges: 21.1 million
Undergraduates: 18.2 million
Graduate: 2.9 million

Students enrolled in some online college courses: 2.8 million
Undergraduates: 2.6 million
Graduates: 277, 467

Students not enrolled in any online college course: 15.7 million
Undergraduates: 13.7 million
Graduates: 2 million

3 Types of Online Education

80 to 100 percent Online courses: No face to face interaction with teacher
30-80 of course delivered online: Traditional courses using web facilitated courses
Blended or hybrid: Up to 20 percent of content delivered online: otherwise, traditional face to face classroom learning

10 Surprising Facts about Online Students:

• 46% of students say their biggest motivation for enrolling in an online course was to advance their current career.
• 37% of online students were the first in their family to attend college.
• 33% of people taking some online course are studying business.
• University of Phoenix has the largest proportion of online students at 15%.
• 39% of online students fall between the ages of 18 to 29.
• 21% of online students pay for their education using personal funds only.
• 70% of virtual learners are female.
• 29% of online graduates earn $85-150k annual income.
• 60% of students taking an online course are employed full-time.
• 37% of online students indicate that they enrolled because of the accelerated courses, which fast-tracks students to a degree.
1 in 4: number of college students taking at least 1 online course

Top 10 most popular online degrees

1.Business Administration/management
3.IT (Information Technology)
4.Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement
7.Graphic Design
8.Health Care Administration
10.Computer Science

But It’s Not Just College. K-12 Online:

25 states have state virtual schools operating in 2013-2014.

29 states and Washington, DC have statewide full-time online schools operating in 2013-14.

There were an estimated 1,816,400 enrollments in distance-education courses in K-12 school districts in 2009-2010, almost all of which were online courses. 74% of these enrollments were in high schools. Online courses with the highest level of enrollment fall under the categories of credit recovery (62%), dual enrollment (47%), and advanced placement (29%).

This enrollment estimate does not include students attending most full-time online schools —
About 200,000 full-time students in 2009-2010. As of 2012-2013, the number of students has
grown to 310,000.

Nearly three out of four (72%) 0 to 8-year olds have a computer at home, but access ranges from 48% among those from low-income families (less than $30,000 a year) to 91% among higher-income families (more than $75,000).

Did You Know?

April 2006: Michigan is first state to require online learning for high school graduation. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Virginia follow. Georgia, New Mexico, and West Virginia recommend students experience online learning before graduation, but not required.

50,000: number of monthly searches using key words “Online Universities”


U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS, Spring 2013, Fall Enrollment component (provisional data, 2012-2013 school year)